The essential A-Z of photography slang

The essential A-Z of photography slang

Action photography tips: 6 ways to get better pictures of planes

Long Tom
Rarely used by anyone other than the old guard of the photography world, ‘Long Tom’ can be used interchangeably for ‘telephoto lens’. The term is a direct reference to the Long Tom, a field gun used by the US Army during World World II.

Digital camera tips: how to use Drive modes

Machine gunner
A photographer who takes 10 shots when they only need to take one. Machine gunners put their cameras in the fastest drive mode and invariably end up with memory cards full of duplicate images (find out how your memory cards work).

Magic hour/Golden hour
A term tossed about by earnest landscape photographers that refers to the time after dawn and before dusk where the sun tends to be at its warmest and most interesting. Shooting landscapes in this golden light gives pictures soul, man… (for more on how to use natural light, check out our guide See the light like a pro: everything you were afraid to ask about natural light).

Marching ants
The dotted lines that flicker around areas that have been selected with the marquee tool in Photoshop.

10 Essential Portrait Photography Tips

Nifty fifty
A 50mm lens with a maximum aperture of f/1.8 of faster is known as a ‘nifty fifty’. Lenses in this range are fast, lightweight and frequently optically superb. But the best bit is the price. The f/1.8 and f/1.4 50mm lenses are often the best value bits of glass you can buy.

Picture noise is the digital equivalent of film grain, although nowhere near as appealing (learn how to reduce noise at high ISO settings). Pictures become speckled and gritty as you increase the ISO sensitivity on the camera (because you’re essentially ‘turning up the volume’ on the light that’s being captured).

Out of Focus. An acronym often seen in online picture critiques As in “I like the way you’ve made the grass OOF”.

Easy one this – Pap is the shortened version of Paparazzo and Papping is what they get up to.

Pixel peeper
Someone who spends too much time looking at images files at 100% on their computer and assessing noise and resolution ‘at the pixel level’ rather than making pictures.

Using prime lenses: Sigma 30mm

A lens with a fixed focal length (such as 20mm, 50mm, 80mm). Zoom lenses cover a range of focal lengths (such as 80-200mm). For more on primes, check out our… primer: 9 things you should know about using prime lenses.

As in “What does X button do? How do activate Y mode? Where do I find Z function in the menu?” “RTFM!”

Often spat in the direction of people who repeatedly ask questions about their camera functions on internet forums, RTFM stands for Read The Frikkin’ Manual (we’ve substituted one word here to protect fragile photographers).

And for those who did read the manual, here is what your digital camera’s manual didn’t teach you.

An American term for a photographer who eats, drinks and sleeps photography. Shutterbugs carry a camera with them at all times and shoot absolutely everything without mercy.

Shutter nutter
The British version of shutterbug. Shutter nutters are slightly less refined than shutterbugs, however, and can often be found at cruising camera trade shows, repeatedly photographing ‘booth babes’.

An old photography slang term for developer.

Learn how to understand your digital camera's exposure compensation feature

A stop is a measure of exposure, usually referred to as ‘EV’ (Exposure Value) in cameras. The aperture, shutter speed and ISO settings on a camera can all be measured in stops, although the actual figures used are different across all three. Each stop represents a doubling or halving of exposure (to learn more, download our free photography cheat sheet on understanding exposure compensation).

Photographers Rights: understanding obstruction laws

The abbreviated form of ‘Photographer’ has become the Marmite of photography slang. You either love it or loathe it. It makes us feel slightly nauseous.

Touching up/retouching
The process of enhancing a picture in image editing software. This term is often used to describe the process of whitening eyes and teeth, and improving skin tone  on a portrait, although the idea of ‘touching up a model’ is a little unsavory…

Uncle Bob
The name that wedding photographers give to a wedding guest who comes armed with a big DSLR, big lenses and expensive flash gun. Often used derogatorily, as in “A right Uncle Bob was always getting in my way.”

Acronym for Ultra Wide Angle lens.

Wide open
When a lens is set at its smallest f-number, such as f/2.8 or f/4, it’s being used ‘wide open’. At this point, the aperture (the hole in the lens) is at its maximum, letting in as much light as possible. Wide apertures mean shorter shutter speeds are required to take a picture, so lenses are often used wide open to take pictures of sport and action (to learn more about this, download our cheat sheet on when to use small or wide apertures).

A rare, pointlessly text speak-style abbreviation of ‘cross processing’.

Zoom creep
Not a dirty old man with a long lens, but rather what happens if you point a superzoom lens up or down, and the zoom position slowly shifts.

PAGE 1: Artifact through Light bucket
PAGE 2: Long Tom through Zoom creep


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  • Humberto

    NAS Nikon Acquisition Syndrome , or else ,CAS (Canon Acquisition syndrome).
    It is the difficult to control need to acquire more Nikon (or Canon) gear and associated stuff

  • Toya Harvey

    Zoom creep is also called lens creep

    And GWC means guy or girl with camera, a models equivalent of an uncle bob, I guess. But with more uneasiness and malintent.

    And SOOC is creeping around forums now – straight out of camera.

    Thank you for the rest, I learned some new things up in here.